The Hum and the Shiver: A Novel of the Tufa (Tufa Novels) Mass Market Paperback – November 26, 2013
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Mass Market Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0765365901
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765365903
- Product Dimensions : 4.14 x 0.97 x 6.81 inches
- Publisher : Tor Fantasy (November 26, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #934,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Much of the plot of The Hum and the Shiver revolves around the fact that Bronwyn is a Tufa. Her family and the majority of her neighbors are also Tufa. In some ways, this is a very good thing for Bronwyn. But in other ways, it presents her with difficult choices.
The Tufa are a mysterious group of people living mostly in the mountains of East Tennessee. There are all kinds of rumors and theories trying to explain what they are. They might be descendants of the Tuatha, the original fairy folk from England and Ireland. Or they might not. Otherwise, they are just like regular people. They have regular jobs, they eat at Shoney’s, some of them drink and do drugs and drive too fast. They seem to have their own magic. But much of their magic comes in the form of songs.
This would be the place to mention the lyrical writing in this book. Literally lyrical, since it includes the lyrics to several of their songs, as well as several more mundane songs. The story was a gripping read from start to finish.
Over the course of my life I have every now and then come upon a novelist who was able to create a story about a world and characters that literally suck me in because they appeal to that special kind of strange that lies deep inside my soul. What I find here in this novel is the acknowledgement that darkness and light are necessary poles of existence.
The thing about the poles of existence is that none of us can bear the extremes of those poles. Even the seers of the Bible tell us that humans cannot survive exposure to either the extreme of the light or of the darkness. As mortals we must find life in the between of light and darkness. Both have the capacity to comfort and thrill us and both have the capacity to fill us with fear and dread and/or to snuff out our life.
The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe carried me into a world of beings, part human and part mystery, who live in the areas of darkness and light where ordinary humans cannot venture. They are not angels. They are not demons. They are known in the land where they live in the mountains of Tennessee as the Tufa. But they are the progeny of the Tuatha Dea, or from real mythology associated with Ireland, the Tuatha Dé Danann, one of the mythical races that settled in Ireland and who were descendents of the Goddess Danu. The book brings these descendents to life. But their knowledge and understanding of their heritage is imperfect and is preserved by only a small number. They are able to communicate with dead spirits and, at times it seems almost as if they are either cavorting with angels and demons, or that they are themselves the incarnation of angels and demons.
In “The Hum and the Shiver” we never seem the Tufa actually cavorting with angels and demons. That is part of what makes the book work so well and be so believable. We do eventually see things that enable us to peek more into the alternate universe that is through the most part of the book only hinted at. What we are allowed eventually to see clearly for an instant is only the briefest of glimpses of another reality. Yet it appears that brief glimpse is crucial to the story as it continues on into the books that follow.
Some criticize the very long and slow trek of the beginning of this story. And, yes, it does begin with a quite long exploration of the history and struggles of a young woman, Bronwyn Hyatt, recently returned from Iraq as a hero veteran of that conflict but at heart a First Daughter of the Tufa, a people who came to the Americas before the first European settlers and were in fact found by the first settlers already living in the mountains of Tennessee. In my own estimation this very long slow trek is to the novel as might be a long slow coming to be accepted in the community the novel describes. If the reader isn’t willing to invest the time needed to get to know these people then I would wager the experience of them will be a shallow one. Some seem to want a novel that takes them to Needsville and let’s them off the tour bus long enough to see a super hero movie. If that’s what a reader is looking for, better to read a super hero novella. For my part I was glad to have the opportunity to live with these people and see them working through their customs and experience how they live together before the action began, because when the action finally does begin I was able to more fully appreciate some depths of what was happening.
The Tufa are reflective of the very real presence of people in the Appalachian mountains of the Virginias, Tennessee, the Carolinas and other parts of Appalachia whose Bluegrass mountain music is rooted in Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English traditional music. And just as in listening to a traditional Bluegrass group one can ‘feel’ that the music is a part of who they are as a people, that it is rooted in their souls, so we experience the music of the Tufa. And what we find in this story is that this music has power to give life, healing and wellness. But it also has power to curse and bring death. Full blooded Tufa are the progeny of the Tuatha
One for whom music is rooted in the soul need not, in fact, be a Tufa or live in a holler of the mountains of Appalachia to recognize the truth in this modern day mythological tale. Yet it is also true that when you experience one of these home grown Bluegrass groups there is a feeling that something deeper is going on that will ever be apparent to the eye or the ear of the uninitiated. It is mysterious and it is mystical in a way that cannot be put into words.
Do you wonder to what the title, “The Hum and the Shiver” refers? In all likelihood if you think carefully about your life you will realize that, at one time or another, you have experienced them, most likely not at the same time. If you have not experienced the Hum then you have had a sad live indeed. If you have not experienced the Shiver, you must have been living in some kind of unreal bubble of either over-protectiveness or lack of awareness.
Tuatha Dea, singing their own song titled “The Hum and the Shiver” wonderfully captures the mystical and earthy atmospherics of Alex Bledsoe’s novel “The Hum and the Shiver” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6v18QkY2-1Q
Bronwyn’s mystery is slow building, at first. As memories and experiences reveal tantalizing hints at Tufa ways, the characters come to life. Their families, traditions, and songs weave a fascinating story I found very hard to put down, reading most of the second half in a single rush! It’s a fun ride, on the night wind, and I can’t wait to read the next.
I was so pleased to discover this story after enjoying the Appalachian rhythm and heartfelt songs of Tennessee musical family, Tuatha Dea. Thanks to their recent “virtual pub crawls” on Sunday evenings, I was able to learn of their musical connection to the author. Even better, I’ve got toe-tapping music and inspiring reading to lift me from the doldrums of staying home during a national shut-down.
Top reviews from other countries
One of those Tufa is Bronwyn Hyatt, a twenty year old soldier, who was deadly wounded while fighting in Iraq and who is now celebrated as a war hero for killing a great many of the enemy. The story starts with Bronwyn coming home, beat and nearly broken and again searching for her place in the world. She has problems with people telling her what to do and bothering her with expectations, probably one of the reasons she left her small home town, where she is part of a people and its special ways.
While she is still trying to decide who she wants to be and what role she wants to play in the greater ways of things, omens appear that warn of sorrow and danger. And just when everybody thinks they have it all figured out, things twist and turn unexpectedly. And it’s Bronwyn who has to do what is right... sorry about being cryptic and all that, but anything else would be spoilering.
Bronwyn is not an easy-to-like character, she is somewhat bitter, somewhat egotistical, somewhat erratic. And most of her motives and thoughts are very foreign to me. But she is also true as a character and grows visibly and in the end I liked her. Same goes for other people. They are a magical people, but not of the „blossoms and sunshine“ kind. It’s also the not so nice face of the rural America and no, although I think it fascinating, I’d never want to live there. But it’s a great background for the plot, no rather a huge part of it. The magic is subtle and awesome and although there is not a lot happening on the action front, it gathers momentum and the end is fantastic.
The story was sure different from most of the urban fantasy I know (maybe because it’s „rural fantasy“) and overall I liked it. The middle part drags a bit and the secondary characters are not too fleshed out (even those that hat POVs), but I still was fascinated.
There is a lot in this story I really want to like. I am a long-time fan of the contemporary fantasy genure. I suspect I liked this book mainly because I liked its subject matter. The story itself . . . it feels almost inconsequential.